Exchanging Christmas gifts can be challenging for fledgling minimalists, but it doesn’t have to be stressful.
Every year it feels like Christmas sneaks up on me. Sure, I’m looking forward to the mince pies, hoping for snow, and eating my weight in Brussels sprouts by Hallowe’en, but it’s always sometime in November that I remember that it’s traditional to exchange gifts at the end of December.
True story: When we got married this past summer I completely forgot that wedding gifts are customary. I had my dress sorted, we’d booked the venue, sent out invitations, and then people started asking if we had a registry. Cue deer-in-headlights look. No, we didn’t have a registry, because it hadn’t crossed either of our minds that anyone would want to buy us gifts. Not like that doesn’t happen every time people get married or anything.
I’ve never really been big on gift-giving, to be honest. It’s not that I mind the sentiment of it, but I find the entire thing incredibly stressful. I struggle to find things that I’m certain my loved ones will like, and as I’ve become more interested in minimalism that’s an even greater concern of mine, as I don’t want to clutter their homes with things they feel obliged to keep but don’t love.
And, because gift-giving goes both ways, let’s not forget the anxiety that surrounds receiving gifts, or that dreaded moment when a parcel is handed to you with glee, only for your heart to sink the second you open it as you realise someone spent a lot of thought and money on something that is simply not ‘you’.
So how can we budding minimalists approach gift-giving without tearing our hair out in frustration?
Change your mindset
The most important thing you can do is to have the right mindset. Don’t go into Christmas shopping with the feeling that it’s an obligation or that you really wish you didn’t have to go through with any of this. Unless you and your loved ones are all happy to forego gifts this year, then all you can do is do your utmost to give people thoughtful gifts and appreciate the ones they give to you.
Focus on the point of gift-giving
With all the social expectations around exchanging gifts, it can be easy to forget that, ultimately, the whole point of it is to give your loved ones something that brings them joy.
Giving gifts and minimalism really have rather a lot in common, in fact. Minimalism, after all, isn’t about having no possessions, but being thoughtful about the possessions you have and only keeping those which serve a purpose, either because they’re utilitarian or they make you happy.
Likewise, gift-giving should be thoughtful and targeted towards giving the recipient something they either find useful or that makes them happy. It should be done mindfully, not as just one more thing to tick off your to-do list.
Remember it isn’t just about you
Obviously, it’s not all about you when you’re the one giving the gift, but it’s also worthwhile to remember that it’s not all about you when you’re the one receiving the gift, either.
Many people enjoy picking out gifts for family members and friends, and they love seeing their loved ones open up gifts on Christmas Day. If this sounds like your family, then you can encourage them towards some of the options listed below, but ultimately accept that they will likely be hurt if you imply you don’t want their carefully-selected surprise gifts. And, honestly, some of my favourite possessions were surprise gifts, chosen by people who know me well and are good at selecting gifts.
Remember that people are giving you gifts because they love you and want to show their appreciation. Sometimes when you’re on a minimalism kick you can become so obsessed with finding things to throw out that you forget that minimalism isn’t about making do with as little as possible. It’s okay for your possessions to swell by a dozen or so once a year. Chances are the sheer volume of stuff you already have is far greater than what you’ll receive for Christmas.
None of this changes the fact that some of us, myself included, just suck at choosing gifts, making Christmas shopping a stressful endeavour. And whether you yourself are like me, and seeking suggestions for what to get your loved ones, or your family members are similarly gift-challenged and you’re trying to get out of your annual knobbly hand-knitted jumper, here are some ideas for gift-shopping guidance.
Make use of wish lists
One of the best ways to ensure you give gifts that are appreciated is to make use of the wish list feature on a site like Amazon. Encourage your loved ones to share their lists with you. Likewise, create your own list and share it with your family and friends to give them some guidance as to what you’re wanting.
Give consumable gifts
Not gonna lie, food is one of my favourite things to get for Christmas. And the best bit? It disappears so quickly that it doesn’t clutter up my flat.
If you know your recipient’s tastes, I don’t think you can really go wrong with food. Just make sure it’s something they like and something they can eat (so no milk chocolate selection for your vegan friend).
Every year my husband and I ask the other what they want and buy it for them. They’re often things that are a little more expensive than we’d necessarily want to buy for ourselves, but we’re both happy to fork over the money for the other.
For instance, last year my husband got me a new Kobo e-reader, while I got him a set of high-quality headphones for gaming.
This route isn’t perfect. It means you have to actually be able to think of something that you’d like to receive. Honestly, you wouldn’t believe the number of times I ask my husband what he wants for his birthday or Christmas and am met with a shrug or a sweet, but unhelpful, “I just want to spend it with you”. However, we’re both okay with not giving/receiving anything in these cases, so it works for us.
In that sense, I suppose it works for us because neither of us really cares much for gift-giving.
Exchanging gifts can be a wonderful part of Christmas celebrations and a fantastic way to express your love. It can be stressful, but by focussing on bringing joy and having guidance you can mitigate that stress so that you and your loved ones can enjoy exchanging presents.
Over to you
Do you like gift-giving? How do you balance gifts and minimalism?
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